by Rachel Tringali Marston
It’s May, which means that PCS season is upon us. Not only are military families packing up and heading to new duty stations in the next few months, but schools from coast-to-coast and DoDEA schools will be ending — adding a little more stress to get everything done.
Although you would think school to-dos would be winding down, this is the time of year when exams hit us, especially for myself and my service member husband because we’re currently enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.
This time of year doesn’t spare those with children either, because the chaos becomes a whole family affair. I’m constantly hearing from military families that end of-school year fieldtrips, exams, and other events that are keeping them preoccupied — oftentimes while prepping for a PCS.
As I’ve mentioned, school is currently a huge reality in my household, but we also are embarking on a PCS this year, as well — and not just any PCS either, it’s an OCONUS move. We only have a couple months to plan, prepare, and execute. While I’m in the midst of everything happening at once, I still need to be able to tame the end-of-school beast. My program ends this summer, so the pressure’s on to make sure nothing goes too crazy. So far, theses six tips are helping me keep my sanity and could also help you as you tackle the beast too.
1. Start Early
Sometimes early doesn’t feel early, but that’s okay. Start at the first feeling of craziness and map out everything you can to the best of your ability. For example, you already may know the very last day of school, so highlight it on your calendar.
If it’s too early that specific dates aren’t established yet, be general and give projected time frames. Having some sort of starting point is better than starting completely from scratch when things start flying — especially if your PCS dates aren’t solid — but you know it is coming.
2. Backwards Plan
Once dates start becoming evident, plop them in your calendar and go in reverse. That helps you assess the amount of time you will need to finish each task. Deadlines for everything from field trip forms to HHG shipments can be established to help you plan for everything you need to.
When you backtrack, it helps you get a sense of your downtime, too, because that’s important. Having free time means doing what you want for a change, and the buffer time needed in case any mishaps come your way because we all are familiar with Murphy’s Law.
Start at the first feeling of craziness and map out everything to the best of your ability.
3. Use Technology
Most smart phones have a built-in calendar feature that is a perfect tool to keep important dates and tasks close to you. I have my school calendar synced to my phone based on emails that come my way from the school. For example, if I get an email from a teacher with deadlines, due dates or exam schedules, my iPhone highlights the date for easy scheduling.
In addition, it’s simple to input it manually and share with other accounts. My husband and I can coordinate our schedules seamlessly, and I know when things get locked in on the calendar when he adds in each event. There are also family calendar scheduling apps out there that can streamline your planning process like Cozi and FamJama.
4. Go Old School
I live off my desk calendar. There is something to be said about writing down everything. For me, I tend to remember something more if I’ve taken the time to write it out. Also, I keep my calendar at a place that is always seen while I work. While I’m currently living in an empty house (because my HHG shipment already has shipped), I kept my desk calendar sitting on the folding card table we rented from the lending closet — AKA my current work desk.
Another tip to add to old-school pen and paper scheduling is to color code by person or activity. For example, I have all my school dates highlighted with blue and PCS dates highlighted in green. This visual cue helps me keep things straight while thing after thing piles up. Utilizing your family to color coordinate and schedule is a great way to get every member on the same page, too. Make it an after dinner activity before dessert to keep your kids excited!
5. Remember to Sleep
As more and more piles onto our plates, we often feel like we need to sacrifice our nighttime routines. But whatever you do, don’t miss out on sleep, because there are many repercussions of sleep deprivation.
We all realize that when we miss out on sleep we are sluggish and our mind isn’t as sharp as it could be. That could affect your long-term productivity as you tame the end-of school beast, and as a result, you may miss out on some things that would have otherwise been top of your mind. Make sure your whole family doesn’t suffer, too. Keep everyone accountable.
6. Don’t Stress the Small Stuff
I’m a huge advocate for maintaining an updated home inventory because you don’t really know when a PCS could come your way. Alas, I didn’t have time to get to it before our UB and HHG shipment left. I had a big final project tying up my after work time. I didn’t have the chance to brief my spouse on my intention to update our home inventory too. So, it didn’t get done.
I took a deep breath and let it go. On our pack-out days, I kept a close eye on our goods and took pictures as they packed the big ticket and newer items in our home. I have plans to unpack as soon as my schedule opens up, but at least I didn’t drive myself too crazy on what didn’t get done.